Just when I thought I couldn’t fall into a deeper funk about the Middle East, the other journalists traveling with the AIEF trip to Israel, received a bit of good news today. We visited the Mevasseret Zion Absorption Center. There we observed some three-year-old Ethiopian toddlers in day care. Some stopped from pushing their paintbrushes in blue paint briefly to pose for pictures. Later, Bruck Teshome, a 26-year-old Ethiopian immigrant, told us his story. His parents emigrated to Israel years ago, but Teshome, a college student opted to remain in Addis Ababa. He worked for the Foreign Ministry there, and then worked for a non-governmental agency seeking free elections. This work put him into the sights of Ethiopian authorities, and he soon made his way to Israel.
Teshome attended an Absorption Center in Ashkelon and participated in ulpan, or language cases. Now he is in classes to get a second masters degree and has a job as a telephone customer service representative because he speaks English. Teshome said that despite the threats, which surround it, Israel is the place he wants to live. Asked about threats from Iran and the Palestinians, he said “I come from a very problematic part of the world,” he said. “But we don’t have the media attention Israel has.”
These absorption centers are run by the Jewish Agency. Without the Jewish Agency, the ability of Jews from around the world, whether from Ethiopia or the former Soviet Union, would be compromised.
I also learned that the Jewish Agency had been working with the Jews of Belmonte. Belmonte is a town in Portugal I visited back in 1994. It was a place where Jews remained in hiding from the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition until the modern era. They converted official to Catholicism, a cross carved into their doorways as a sign, and remained secretly Jews. For more than 500 years, they thought they were the only Jews in the world. Then they found Colette Avital and discovered a pathway back to traditional Judaism. Now they are coming to Israel. Let’s salute the Jewish Agency for making the dream of a Jewish national homeland a reality.